August 19, 2003

Advice for Your First Time

Welcome to the University of Louisiana, or as LSU forces us to call it, UL Lafayette. Usually I devote this space to constructively criticizing our leaders, satirizing the human condition or whatever. But this week is different. If you are adjusting to a university environment for the first time, clip this column and put it in your freshman folder. Take it from me, a sixth-year professional student: you’ll need it!

1) Find out what you have as a student. You have season tickets for football, health insurance and a health-club membership. Did you know that? A lot of people never do. You also bought a $25 parking space, even if you have no car, driver’s license or eyesight.

2) No one has to know about your nickname, “Dorkeaux,” from Gumbo High School. You are starting over where most people have yet to make their first impression of you. The college social life is much different than the campus where your 14 classmates made fun of you for 18 years. Don’t be afraid to be yourself; chances are, there is a club full of people just as strange as you are.

3) Remember that permanent record they kept of you? It’s gone! This is good news if you were a delinquent in high school. Bad news if you were Captain Campus. And to think I had perfect attendance all through high school for nothing!

4) Don’t buy any friends. If you can’t find at least one friend on a campus with 17,000 people, chances are that rushing will not help. If no one else on campus does it for you, talk to me; I’ll be your friend. And I won’t paddle you or cost you thousands of dollars.

5) Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Hundreds of faculty get paid just to answer questions. The least you can do is let them do their jobs. Everybody wins! Asking fellow students is also a great way to make friends, unless they’re annoyed.

6) Shop around for books. The University Bookstore typically has higher prices and lower buyback, but more efficient service, thorough selection and the proceeds go back into the school. Follett’s has fewer books and registers but it does have lower prices and a buyback guarantee. Textbook rentals are cheaper but suck if you need a workbook. Books can be bought online as well, if you know where to look. Tip: travel back in time and get a book scholarship of some kind so you don’t have to screw around with this.

7) Contrary to what they say in the ads, mail-order term papers fool no one. Professors are so surprisingly familiar with secondhand material that it’s almost scary. I think they write those mail-order papers themselves as a side job.

8) Internet access exists outside Dupre Library. Activate your account for free in Stephens Hall. You can also go to the Conference Center, Guillory Hall or the myriad smaller labs around campus. As it is now, people desperately needing to type and print out papers in the library have to stand in line while people who don’t even have backpacks are lazily scrolling Google. If the latter describes you, then my library goons or I will deal with you accordingly.

9) The Strip is heavily overrated. Also overrated: fast food, coffee, parking towers, buyback and Nick Bouterie. Underrated: the Aquatic Center, most UL sports and maintenance workers.

10) Olde Tyme Grocery, Papa John’s and McDonald’s take checks. This might save your life someday.

11) Go all the way. You too can someday be an aimless college graduate just like me!

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